This morning I was proud to represent the ocean science community in a meeting with the Obama Presidential Transition Team. Just about every federal agency was represented by the team. The meeting was led by Trustee Leon Panetta and included short presentations by several environmental “blue” groups. In my presentation, I focused on energy and climate issues pointing out that as offshore energy development moves forward, as well as carbon sequestration programs, we willneed to understand the environment in which we are placing these facilities as well as to be able to monitor the changes occurring in these environments over time. And, much of this effort needs to focus on research, monitoring and forecasting to reduce uncertainties and to measure the effects of these decisions. My key point was that policy formulation, management processes, and decision making needs to be made on the best science available.
Another major point with respect to climate change is that the ocean is the missing link in the puzzle and that there are several scientific opportunities to reduce uncertainties in forecasting future conditions. These comments transitioned nicely into a talk by Susan Avery (WHOI) who focused on the various ocean observing systems which are vital for providing information to decision makers and resource managers. Admiral Watkins wrapped up our presentation with a spirited call to action which featured the economic case for investing in the oceans.
From an administrative point of view, I noted that we have a federal agency document to address these research efforts, the Ocean Research Priorities Plan, which was produced by the Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology. I strongly recommended that the transition team support this plan and that this report be used as a foundation from which to build for the future. It is ready to be implemented. The appropriate funding just hasn’t been there. I also recommended that the Obama Administration not only keep in place, but strengthen the role of the various Council on Ocean Policy interagency committees that have been established over the past few years on the recommendation of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.
The meeting was an extraordinary event and a huge opportunity for our community to demonstrate the challenges facing our nation and the role and opportunities that ocean science has in addressing and mitigating those challenges. Other ocean scientists who participated in the meeting were Andy Rosenberg (University of New Hampshire and the U.S. Commission of Ocean Policy), Shirley Pomponi (HBOI and the Ocean Sciences Board), and Jerry Schubel (Aquarium of the Pacific and the Ocean Research and Resources Advisory Committee). A common theme that ran throughout the meeting was the oceans role in climate change and offshore energy development. There was consensus amongst the groups for the establishment of an ocean trust fund to reinvest in the ocean in the form of science, monitoring and conservation. I am hopeful that this is the beginning of a continued dialogue between the members of this “blue group”, with members of the transition team and eventually the new Administration. It is certainly a great start.